Columbia University Commits to Clean Air NY Campus Partnership

Columbia University has been selected as a Clean Air NY Campus Partner, an honor given to institutions of higher education who go above and beyond to encourage and facilitate their communities to carpool, take public transit, bike, or walk to campus.

April 12, 2019

“Clean Air NY is proud to recognize Columbia University for its continued commitment to commute incentives and options for faculty and students, helping bikers and carpoolers alike feel comfortable in their sustainable commute modes,” said Tom Conboy, Clean Air NY Program Coordinator. Clean Air NY is affiliated with 511NY Rideshare, New York State's home for carpool matching, commuter, and traveler services that has worked closely with Columbia for several years.

As reported in Columbia Transportation’s biannual commuter survey, more Columbians are using sustainable travel methods than reported in 2016. Fewer Columbia affiliates chose a drive-alone commute in 2018: a 2.5 percent and 1.1 percent decrease for employees and students, respectively. This change can be attributed to Columbia’s efforts to provide housing for affiliates on or near campus, and by implementing sustainable travel programs for those who commute from farther away. In 2018, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded Columbia the top spot for sustainable transportation in its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report.

“Columbia has a heavy focus on how students travel to campus and offers a mix of incentives that appeal to the various ways people commute,” said Conboy. “The University has worked with 511NY Rideshare for years, but has gone even further by offering things like guaranteed ride home programs, extensive shuttle bus services, and incentives for bike commuters.”

According to Clean Air NY, nearly one-third of all air pollution in the New York metropolitan region is caused by vehicle travel. Taking other forms of transportation, such as mass transit, can make a big difference toward making New York’s air healthier and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

As a Campus Partner, Columbia has agreed to several requirements, including but not limited to: 

  • Sending out Air Quality Action Day updates to the community
  • Providing incentives to people who carpool and bicycle
  • Promoting the Clean Air NY program to employees and/or students

Sustainable Columbia will update its News page with Air Quality Action Days when applicable, and will repost alerts from Clean Air NY on Facebook. Air Quality Action Days occur when air quality is expected to be unhealthy for certain people. This may include people with heart and lung problems, older adults, children, and those who are more sensitive to air pollution.

Summer typically has the highest number of Air Quality Action Days, but unhealthy levels of pollution can occur any time of year. When an Action Day is forecast, the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) issues an update. To have notifications sent directly to your email inbox, sign up for Clean Air NY’s Air Quality Action Day Updates and they’ll email you the forecast, as well as information on how to avoid air pollution effects and protect your health.

Everyone can do their part to create a positive impact on air quality and the environment. Clean Air NY and Sustainable Columbia recommend the following:

  • Avoid unnecessary driving by taking advantage of one of Columbia’s many sustainable travel programs and incentives.
  • Work from home using telecommuting technology.
  • Refuel your vehicle after dark to prevent pollutants that react with sunlight.
  • During the summer, raise your air conditioning temperature when possible.
  • Avoid use of aerosol products and paints with harmful vapors.

To learn more about Clean Air NY, visit their website.